“By having a more clear set of criteria to identify stress I’m hoping it will elevate the discussion in a much clearer way,” DiNapoli said.
The comptroller’s office also handed down a highly critical audit on the Falls earlier in the month, scolding the city for using “one-shot” or non-recurring revenue sources to plug holes in the budget.
DiNapoli acknowledged that the casino dispute had a significant affect on the city’s financial situation, but also noted the city’s continuing structural deficit issues in a statement that accompanied the audit.
“While the dispute over gaming revenue is significant, the city’s budget challenges also stem from a number of socio-economic factors including population loss and a high unemployment rate,” DiNapoli said. “The mayor and the city council are actively trying to manage their considerable hurdles, but getting on firmer financial footing will require a resolution of casino gaming issues and likely even greater assistance from the state.”
Mayor Paul Dyster said that while the delivery of withheld casino revenues will help the city deal with immediate issues related to cash shortages, dealing with long-term deficit issues remains a priority for his administration.
“We just need to try to find a way to grow the tax base faster but also to hold our costs down,” Dyster said. “That’s a multi-year effort.”
Dyster said he plans to ask city lawmakers to approve the city’s participation in the comptroller’s program for financially distressed cities. The city has already committed to being part of the state’s Financial Assistance Restructuring Program.
“We’re looking for assistance from outside experts to help us address these things,” Dyster said.